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Shadows Cast By Stars

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Old ways are pitted against new horrors in this compellingly crafted dystopian tale about a girl who is both healer and seer.

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet— especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn't mean she's safe— government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors— and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader's son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument...

Incorporating the traditions of the First Peoples as well as the more familiar stories of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend, Shadows Cast by Stars is a haunting, beautifully written story that breathes new life into ancient customs.

456 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2012

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About the author

Catherine Knutsson

4 books95 followers
I live on beautiful Vancouver Island, where I write, ride, run, and hike in the wilds. Oh, and I'm Métis, just like Cassandra, the main character in SHADOWS CAST BY STARS.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 247 reviews
September 17, 2013
I expected an action-packed, fast-paced adventure, with incorporated elements of Native American mythology...I got a book filled with uninteresting introspection and a whole lot of boredom.

Shadows Cast By Stars is more of a self-exploration book, a rite-of-passage for the main character than it is a dystopian-based book. Technically, it is a dystopian tale, since that is the setting in which the story takes place, but it moves along at such a slow pace and the setting is so far removed from the major parts of actual life, actual culture and people, that one can hardly tell that the "dystopian" part is there at all. I certainly expected a lot more excitement from the blurb's promise, and I was very disappointed by what I read.

This book takes place in the future, where a very vaguely described plague has decimated the population. The book summary made the deadly plague seem like it would play a major role within the book, but this event is barely mentioned throughout the first half of the book at all. Cassandra, her troubled twin brother, and father ended up running away and going into hiding to a mysterious place called The Island. Their blood (aboriginal blood) is supposed to be valuable to the government, and there are rumors that the government are holding people hooked up to machines, milking them for their blood, keeping them captive for the rest of their lives. Again, this is barely mentioned in the book.

Cass's brother Paul can foresee the shadowy future, Cass herself sees shadow creatures, spirits, totems. It is a pretty useless power, as far as I can tell in the book. Their power and mysticism play no relevance to the plot except to develop and portray Cass as a spiritual, mystical character who is completely unremarkable and indistinctive otherwise.

The Island is supposed to be a place of hiding, where a native community has gathered in secrecy, undiscovered and unmonitored by the government. There, they encounter prejudice because Cass and her twin brother are only half blood. The first half of the book is mostly about the prejudice and difficulties Cass and her family faces, and Cass' spiritual training.

Did I mention spiritual training and rituals? Let me mention it again. There is SO much of it there. Yes, it's significant, a tradition, steeped in history.

I don't care.

I expected a dystopian adventure, not a book about history and tradition. I don't mean to be offensive, I am not diminishing the significance of the culture, I just wanted something else out of this book, and I feel disgruntled and misled. The summary promised me an adventure. It did not deliver on that promise.

It is difficult reading about the hate that the family face; Cassandra (aptly named, think Greek prophet) encounters hate from so many people, not just the young and misinformed people in the tribe, but from the elders. Not even the old, supposedly wise men are above calling her a slut. It's hard and painful to read. Despite the hate encountered, the culture itself is lovingly described. There is a lot of explanation about spiritual training, Native culture, and the Métis in general.
"Our French is more patois than pure, but it marks us as what we are: Métis. Once the children of the coureurs de bois and their Indian wives of convenience, we are now just what the name means: mixed. Half-breeds. Not red enough to be red, and not white enough to be white. We don’t have a native tongue. Our myths are a curious twist of European tales and plains folklore, and never do we dance until we become one with the spirit world. We jig instead, hopping and skipping to fiddle and spoons."
The descriptions are beautifully written, giving the appropriate mystical feel to the book. The author is half-Métis, and it shows that she knows her subject, the legends, and has done the research. The plot plods and drags along; however beautiful the writing, I found myself reading the book in bits and pieces, never able to withstand more than a dozen pages or so at a time, because it just was not interesting to me. The plot did not live up to my expectations of a dystopian adventure.

The writing is dreamy and lyrical:
"...The cadence of the drum changes and the crowd parts. The Elders, wrapped in cloaks of woven cedar bark, stagger up to the fire. Firelight glints off the shells sewn to the capes, shells that have become eyes of the creatures painted there."

However, the plot is weak to the point of nonexistence, and moves along at the pace of chilled molasses. The government and the Corridor (again, the concept of the Corridor is very poorly explained, and I found myself lost more than once) is made out to be ineffectively stupid. If blood is such a valuable commodity, surely there is a scientific way to replicate the DNA and the antibodies. I feel like the plot of this book is made up for the interest of this book instead of based on scientific facts. Two hundred years from now, we don't have the technology for replicating antibodies? In 2013, we're so close to cures for so many diseases; we're so close to cloning, we can isolate cancer genes, we can grow certain parts from stem cells...and yet, the author expects us to believe that THAT far ahead, we lack some truly fucking simple medical technology? It beggars belief.

The pace doesn't pick up slightly until the latter 1/3 of the book, and then it's still not what I had expected. There's no big bad government here; 95% of the conflict comes from within the community itself. It is self-destructive, it is insular, it is cannibalistic, filled with hate and irrational fear, and I find it very hard to sympathize with anyone within it. Consequently, I didn't care what happened to them, Cass could have abandoned them to destruction and I wouldn't have blamed her one bit.

I could definitely have done without the first 2/3s of the book, or at least a more condensed version. The plot picks up a bit towards the end, and I enjoyed Cass more as a character. She becomes tougher, stronger out of necessity, and is definitely one of those people who develop their strength in difficult times. Still, there was the unbearable beginning of the book to account for, so I can't truly recommend this book for a reader expecting an adventure. Not recommended unless you are a fan of slow-paced books and terribly slow personal narratives.

This is not an intriguing read as one would have expected from the promising summary. There is no excitement. There is no enjoyment. Go read a history book on native and aboriginal cultures, it would be more interesting and relevant than this poor excuse of a dystopian novel.
Profile Image for Wine Country.
352 reviews23 followers
October 9, 2012
"There's a story among people, not my people, for I am, and will always be, one apart. But there's a story of how people came to be, how Raven dropped from the sky to pry open a clam shell, and found humankind inside. They say that this story took place a long, long time ago when earth was still young, when Raven still spoke words that were lies and truth at the same time.

So I say: This is the story of the way things once were, and now are, and how they will be, for if there is one thing I've learned, it's that we are not bound by the myths created for us..... These are my truths, my myths, my lies. This is my story."

This is the story of Cassandra, a half-blood aboriginal whose family must flee their home to a place called The Island in order to keep her and her twin brother safe from the government. For people of aboriginal decent are valuable to the government as their blood is the only known cure for the Plague that has ravaged the world and wiped out most of the population. Those with aboriginal blood are drained of their life force to save the greater good.

Cassandra has always been different, so has her brother. They are connected to the Spirit world and Cassandra has the unique ability to see other people's Shades, their spirit selves. She can also cross into Spirit whenever she wants to. These are powerful and rare abilities so when they arrive on the Island, a sanctuary that is guarded by a group of guerrilla warriors who call themselves The Band and an energy force that keeps out all non-Aboriginals from the Island, she is taken under the healers wing and protected from the greedy Elders who would use her for their own deeds. But it is not just the healers heart she touches but the Band leader's son who falls for her strength, courage, love and beauty. For Cassandra is the ultimate warrior and one of the strongest female characters I have ever read. The spirit world is angry and it will stop at nothing to be heard and they have chosen Cassandra to deliver their message.

This book was unlike anything I have read in a very long time. The mysticism of the aboriginal people combined with the pure magic of Knutsson's writing sweeps the reader off their feet from the very first page. It has been a very long time since I have read something so lyrical and poetic that you feel the very spirit world that Cassandra visits all around you. Knutsson's writing blew me away. The way she could describe something so beautifully that it had the reader feeling as though they were standing there with the character experiencing everything right along with them.

But this story is not all beauty, for there are some ugly deep rooted messages that Knutsson covers. For racism, greed and hate are prevalent throughout this book and Cassandra must stand against all of them. The UA (government) bleeds her people dry to save the white men, but even on her protected island she is discriminated against because she is what they call a half-blood. This Island that is supposed to be a sanctuary away from the UA is steeped in the same ugliness that the Elders and leaders believe they have escaped from. Knutsson's portrayal of these underlying themes had me gripping the book in anger, wanting to jump through the pages and scream at these people for their disgusting behavior. But unfortunately this is nothing new, for this kind of behavior can be found in our world and not just in Knutsson's.

While I normally love intense romances, the relationship between Bran and Cassandra was just as beautiful as some of the more intense relationships that I love even though Knutsson did not spend a lot of time focusing on their relationship. It was a sweet romance that was handled perfectly and maturely for people grow up fast on the island and life is short and Cassandra is not someone to question her own mind. She knows what she wants and she goes for it.

"I should have been there." His voice is breathy as if the words hurt his throat.
Should he have? I look up at him. For sixteen years I have survived without Bran Eagleson. I stand, slowly, and lift my shirt to expose the scar on my belly before Bran can look away "Look at this, Bran. Look. I don't need a protector. I am capable of taking care of myself, and if you can't handle that, then you should leave." I let my shirt fall back into place and sit back down.
"You want me to leave?" He asks. Surprise colors his voice.
"No." I begin to work on the wind chime again, just so I won't have to look at him. If I did I would want to fix his hurt, his confusion, but thats not for me. This, Bran needs to figure out on his own, though nothing says I can't help him along a bit. "I want you to stay, but only if we're equals. Not if you think I need your protection, that I'm your responsibility all the time."

Their relationship is one of mutual respect and deep rooted love and a trust in each other that has them both putting their life in each others hands without a moment of doubt. It's as magical and beautiful as everything else in this book.

But what I loved most, other than Knutsson's incredible writing, was all the aboriginal mysticism and beliefs that are the root of this story. I didn't know much about their culture or beliefs before reading this book but now I am fascinated and am eagerly looking forward to learning more about them. Their belief in the universe and that everything has a soul (or what I like to call energy), the air we breath, the grass we walk on, the chair we sit on and the desk that I type at, it's all connected and as much alive as we are. It's a belief I share with them and one I thought Knutsson captured beautifully. Madda, the healer that takes Cass under her wing, was one of my favorite characters and will have you laughing, crying and thinking throughout the whole book. When she explains to Cass the stories that Cass must carry on to the next healer, the understanding of the universe and the spirit world, I felt as thought she was speaking directly to me and passing on to me these valuable lessons. Not only did I get swept away on an amazing journey of a story but I felt that my beliefs were challenged as well and I have walked away from this book with even more peace in what I believe my place in this universe truly means.

Catherine Knutsson is one of my new favorite authors and I cannot wait to see what else she produces for she is truly one of the best new voices in YA today and Shadows Cast by Stars is one that everyone should read.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,052 reviews910 followers
February 6, 2017
A finished unsolicited copy was provided by the publisher for review.

There’s such a creepy tone when I read this book that I couldn’t help but get shivers. Thinking of the spirit world in a sense makes me think of ghosts! Eeks! Imagine being able walk into the world and talk and interact with souls. I wished there was more of this. I don’t know what to call it but soul searching.

I love the concept of the disease. The plague wiping out most of the world but when a scientist finds out the antibodies in native blood prevents them from getting sick from the plague. But I definitely wished there was more world building. I really thought that would be the main plot of the story, the government trying to track them down and drain their blood. I guess the description was wrong since most of the book is about Cassandra trying to learn her new powers, and helping her twin brother.There was a lot of everyday tasks that Cass had to do to survive and I didn’t think it added too much to the story, so those parts can be edited down. There’s an unknown history with Cassandra’s brother Paul and I can’t help but wonder what it is. Even Cassandra herself has a dark past which are touched upon in a few paragraphs. I couldn’t help but cringe as to how the Band and their citizens treated her. It felt all too much like prejudice and superiority all mixed into one.

I loved the beautiful visualization that Catherine Knutsson writes with. It was detailed enough for you to add your own visual cues. I certainly imagined what their house looked like and how the Island looked like. There’s a lot of mystery and intrigue in this novel, and I would love to know how it all works out.


“Dreams can be tempting, you know. Sometimes they’re so sweet we don’t want to come back to our bodies.”—Madda
Profile Image for C Hellisen.
Author 47 books254 followers
June 27, 2012
I am dying to get my hands on this one. The cover is beautiful, and I know Catherine Knutsson's writing is wonderful so I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does with this novel.

Okay wow, gorgeous, gorgeous book. Like waking up in the dark.

Have you ever watched Princess Mononoke? There's that one scene where the forest god is walking through the lake, with the half-submerged trees, and there's light everywhere and yeah....

This book felt like that scene - dreamlike, dangerous, wild, spiritual.

It's definitely not going to be for every YA reader; the pace is languid, the prose elegant. But my god the imagery. I could see Cass's world as clearly as if I were there, smell the cold on the wind, see the shades rippling behind people. Also, while the setting is post-apocalyptic, because of the weaving of myths and legends through the narrative, I'd place this firmly in fantasy.

I'm hoping there's a sequel written to this because while one part of Cass's journey is done (her acceptance of her powers and becoming the medicine woman) there is still so much more that has to happen, especially if Knutsson holds with her Arthurian motif.
Profile Image for Jalilah.
373 reviews90 followers
May 4, 2018
This beautifully written debut novel is highly original and captivating. It does seem like it's the first in a series and there should be more to come. I hope the author writes a sequel!
I could not help but notice one of the reviews, unfortunately the one that got the most likes, complains that its is too slow and "nothing happens". Okay.....people reading this book expecting
a First Nations/Native American version of Hunger Games might be disappointed, however I disagree that "nothing happens", because a lot happens!
There is not a lot of fighting in every chapter like Hunger Games, but this book is also about a young women's journey becoming a medicine woman. A lot takes place in the "spirit world", a mythical place where dreams, legends of the past and reality are real. The dystopian part takes second place to what happens on a personal level.
I loved this book and recommend it!
Profile Image for Ingrid.
449 reviews38 followers
May 3, 2013
Look at the pretty cover!
This was a unique book. I've read books that look into First Nation culture before (Keeper'n Me, April Raintree, but I've never read a futuristic, dystopian, fantasy that centered around Aboriginal culture. It was a really neat experience. It was a positive experience, because this book told its story really well, and the words flowed. There were a lot of good things, and as is my custom, I'll start with those.

1 The setting. The setting was really, very cool. The island was rich in detail, and both beautiful and dark by turns. There were times when the reader and Cass both felt the beauty of the forest and nature, and then times we felt the horror of what lurks underneath, out of this world.

2The characters. They were generally (not always, and not all of them) well-rounded. A lot of aspects about Cass I liked (except the occasional stupid moment where she keeps second guessing herself and Madda. Argh.) but even the annoying moments added to her character and I found myself accepting them and her. The only thing about her that I found really, really annoying... well, that'll come later.

However, the other characters were also good. Madda, for instance, I loved. Helen, I also loved. Adelaide. Paul, sometimes. Bran, sometimes. And Grace. Oooh, boy, she was an interesting, nutty lady.

3 The relationship between Cass and her father. In so many YA novels, the parents basically don't exist. It's just the kids. This is something that has irked me for many years. My parents and the grown ups in my community have had such an impact on me through the years. I would not be who, or what I am if it weren't for my parents, and the people who I've come to think of as second parents, or aunts and uncles. In this book, Cass talked to her father. Maybe her father didn't accompany her on her journey, but he was there. Madda, too, was an adult who was there and invested in Cass. I appreciated that.

4 The Mythology. One part frightening, one part mystifying, and one part squirm-inducing; it was completely enthralling. Crazy, yes, but interesting to read about.

As good as this book was, there are reasons for the shaved off star. Yes, it was not perfect. What book is? (Besides Unwind?)

1 Cassandra's infernal obsession with Bran. She meets him once. ONCE. And she's feeling the butterflies inside and going all, "oooh." She claims that she was a girl who would never pay attention to boys. What girl who never pays attention to boys suddenly find herself head over heals after ONE MEETING? Doesn't happen, or if it does, it's not love, it's attraction which is a completely different kettle of fish.
HOWEVER, I appreciated that she didn't get drawn into a stupid love triangle because another guy was pining for her. She turned him down and didn't try to lead him own. Good girl.

2 Paul's constant crappy attitude. I get a lot of why Paul is like he is, but... couldn't there have been some good stuff? Just for a few scenes? Pleeaase? I wanted a reason to like him. I longed for a reason to respect him.

3 I wish that the world was better explained. The plague could have been explained more. The world building was decent, but not amazing, and I wish there had been that extra push.
Other than that, this book was pretty impressive. I think I'll take a deeper look into Catherine Knutsson's books.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 7 books1,198 followers
June 3, 2012
This will be an interesting review to write simply because I have such conflicting feelings about this novel. I gave it four stars but really, that is no reflection at all on how I actually really feel about it so read on and I might be able to articulate myself. I read the ARC version of the novel so that may account for my muddled feelings but well...let's just get on with it. I really liked how Cassandra and her twin, Paul were characterized. There seems to be a gravity to them, in them that you normally don't find in protagonist - almost a melancholy in their characters. Also, they are metis and are inheritors of the years and years of violence, injustice and discrimination done to them by the Colonizers. A history that is being repeated in their time as they are the only group of people immune to the mysterious plague that has thrown the rest of the world into chaos. Okay. First sticking point here. The plague is obviously an important part of the novel as is the immunity of the First Nations people but there is not much attention given to both of these things. I wanted to know what exactly the plague is, how many people had died, was it the same thing around the world, and who are these "non-Others" who are dying. Are they made up of white people or are other countries and races affected the same way or do they not even exist anymore considering their lack of access to the First Nations people. Also, why are the First Nations people? What is in their blood that makes them immune? Have the white people/ruling body tries to reproduce whatever is in their blood to make their antidote and if not, why not? Things like these are what makes books so difficult to write but are what holds a book together. The little details that somehow become the most important ones by their absence. I was interested in the world Knutsson created and that is exactly why I want to know more about it.

The story moves to what I read is a mythical representation of Vancouver Island and as I said, I really like Cassandra, Paul and their father so I continued reading and I am glad I did. Shadows Cast by Stars is rich in mythology, culture and legend. It has a different flavour of paranormal that has not been represented in the YA genre before (as far as I know) so I found it absolutely enriching and fascinating to read about the different Gods and supernatural creatures that populated the pages of the novel. Usually when you come across Native Indian mythology in YA novels, it is of the American flavor and I think this is the first time I've come across stuff that has a uniquely Canadian taste to it and I loved that. I also loved how detailed (but not overwhelmingly so) the description of every day life is. Also, the way the conflicts that play out between Paul and Cassandra is also intriguing. Cassandra's love for her brother is obvious in her concern for him and I found that relationship to be much more interesting than the romance. Which brings me to my second sticking point. There are tinges of insta-love in this. Tinges because it is not quite. In fact, I am not sure why Cassandra loves Bran or if she even loves him. There is an ambiguity to her feelings, a mystery to them so that even though she is with him, she goes through all the motions that say she loves him, it doesn't seem like she does. There was insta-love but none of the following dramatic love and melodrama that are so characteristic of insta-love. In fact, Cassandra is remarkably self-contained which made me like her more. There is a love triangle but of a different variety than the usual in that the third side of the triangle starts off as a hostile character who may or may not have reformed by the end of the novel.

The plot is a bit blurry and lacks the clarity and the sharpness that I would have liked. It has a lot of abstract action by which I mean that there is a lot of metaphysical stuff occurring which is okay for me but I fear that some readers may get lost in all of it. What I liked a whole lot was how the action is evenly distributed through the novel so there is no one chapter of action and 74 chapters of dithering. And the end of the novel is poignant and though there is no cliff hanger, Knutsson does create a logical bridge to the next novel which means that I will wait anxiously for the sequel because I have a soft spot for Paul. I kinda wish that the sequel would be from Paul's perspective but I am not sure I am willing to lose Cassandra's point of view.

Okay, this doesn't really have anything to do with reviewing but considering that I am a lit major, I couldn't help but notice how interestingly the women in the novel were portrayed. There's obviously Cassie but there are also three mother figures who are as different as can be. Bran's mom is certifiably insane, Madda is...well, what anyone would expect a mystical healer to be and there's Cassie's Mom who is...well, you'll have to read it to find out. Then there are the three girls - Cassie, Avalon and um another character who I really liked but whose name I don't remember at the moment. And three boys. Cedar, Paul and Bran. I wonder what it is with the number three and if it's a coincidence or if there is a deeper meaning to it. I'm probably just reading too much into it.

Anyway, in conclusion, I recommend this novel. Strongly recommend it because even with its faults, it contains a rich world where the line between folklore and reality is very thin. Where survival is more than staying alive and a world where monsters may just be the only allies you have.
Profile Image for black lamb.
44 reviews25 followers
May 16, 2014
Well, I liked it. I guess a lot of people thought the blurb was misleading? The synopsis makes it sound like more of a Hunger Games-y, Divergent-y, post-apoc-y dystopia kind of thing, when really this book is more of a magical fantasy. Frankly, I'm relieved. I'm sick of dystopias.

What I got out of this was much more interesting - a spiritual journey, a kind of coming-into-power or self-discovery fantasy about a young woman who gets to actually, you know, do stuff. She spends the majority of the book learning to be the apprentice to the local medicine woman, and then spends the rest of the book on a rescue mission, saving lives and journeying into the world of spirit to right some pretty grievous wrongs. There are some moments in this book that are genuinely frightening and horrifying; Knutsson does not gloss over the more gory parts of the spiritual stuff she's working with here. There's ambiguity and nuance, which is great. This book is obviously part one of a series; the ending was an obvious set-up for a sequel, and I hope one comes, because I'd be interested to read it.

You don't see a lot of books with Native protagonists, and what I liked about this is that it is very much a Native story, not just a story with some brown people tossed in for diversity's sake. The mythology and history of the people and the land are beautifully interwoven with the struggles of a young girl in a futuristic setting not too different from ours, and the book recalls mythology from other parts of the world in interesting and fresh ways. I don't think it's a spoiler to mention that the name Cassandra was very obviously deliberately chosen. You used to see that name picked a lot for YA protagonists for no other reason than because it sounded cool, but there's a point to it here.

The book is light on romance, though it definitely exists, especially in the first half — Cassandra falls for a boy and there's another boy who later develops feelings for her. But romance is never the focus of the story, instead it is, for the first three quarters or so, about the relationship between Cassandra and her new mentor, Madda, as well as the changing and dwindling relationship between Cassandra and her twin brother Paul.

The book is not perfect, which is why I gave it four instead of five. The plot kind of circles around itself in frustrating ways. Sometimes things kind of just happen arbitrarily because Knutsson needed them to happen, and then aren't explained, like when the Band 'goes to war' when the UA comes for them. Like, they leave, some very significant stuff happens to Paul and Cassandra, and then they come back and it never comes up again? I don't know.

Knutsson introduces the concept of a Plague and the fact that indigenous people are the only ones whose blood produces antibodies to combat it, antibodies that apparently this hyper-advanced society cannot reproduce artificially, and so they start harvesting the blood of indigenous people "for the good of all." This sounds like a major plot point, but ends up being stuff that's going on in the background, and is mostly just the impetus for the Native peoples in this book to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. And don't get me wrong, the whole "the government is literally harvesting the blood of Native people" thing is a pretty pointed metaphor, I would have liked to see more done to explore that, but maybe it's coming in book 2 or 3?

I wish Cassandra had a little more of a personality; she's kind of a cipher, and sometimes seems a little slow to pick up on what should be obvious, or unwilling to ask important questions at the right time. (Cassandra's moments of sass and spine, though, are pure gold.)

There were some really interesting minor characters in this, like Grace and Avalon, two white women with some pretty severe problems of their own. I like what Knutsson does with Avalon, I didn't really like it up until a certain point when she kind of subverts an obvious and overdone YA trope. I'm really interested in reading more about characters like Helen, who I hope has a bigger role and more character development if/when a sequel ever comes out. Madda is a really great character, I loved her, she toed the line of a trope that can get really tiresome but she always felt like a real person. I don't want to spoil too much but I hope she comes back.

Sorry this isn't a very fun review, it's hard to make reviews about books that didn't make me want to nuke the surface of the earth entertaining. Sometimes I just feel obligated to leave nice reviews for books that deserve more attention, like this one. (ALSO TO PROVE THAT I DON'T JUST PICK BOOKS TO READ BECAUSE I KNOW I'LL HATE THEM SHH. SHHHH.)
Profile Image for Diana Stevan.
Author 7 books43 followers
January 7, 2013
I was so impressed by this book. I loved the fact that Cassandra, the protagonist, was so multi-faceted. Not only was she strong and courageous, but she was also loving and giving, and therefore very appealing. The author, Catherine Knuttsson, wove in First Nations mythology, the supernatural, and herbal medicine as she told the story of a family in the future, trying to survive in a land at a time when so much was uncertain. It seemed that with every chapter, things couldn't get worse, and yet they did, over and over again, keeping me glued to the page and up at all hours of the night. I call that a good read.
Profile Image for P.M..
1,217 reviews
May 28, 2020
Here we go with another pandemic book. I never realized i had so many lying around in my stash. It's about 200 years in the future and much of the world has been destroyed. The Plague has decimated the population but there is a cure - the blood of the Others. The Others turn out to be Native Americans. When danger looms, Cass, her twin brother Paul, and her father escape to the island to find safety from the searchers who want to harvest their blood. Both Cass and Paul have talent which allow them to interact with the spirit world. Will this be enough to provide the safety they crave? This was OK. There was a lot about Native American mythology which was interesting. I wanted to like it more because of the title. Unfortunately, the ending suggested and demanded a sequel which apparently hasn't happened. I also didn't really care for the characters.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,113 reviews1,338 followers
December 2, 2016
Oh no, disappointing book!! I'm sad I spent all of yesterday reading this underwhelming and, in the end, boring book. It reminded me of my experience reading Throne of Glass, which is a similarly kind of terrible YA about a supposedly cool girl heroine that went on for far too long.

Okay a few things I liked:
- very cool concepts (a plague 200 years in the future, Indigenous people's blood has the antibodies to it)
- some nice writing about human truths, etc., for a debut YA novel
- the SF setting on Vancouver island was cool for me to imagine, as someone who knows the place
- integration of some Pacific Northwest Indigenous mythology was super cool
- explicitly Metis main character, yay
- there seemed to be some kind of vague statement happening about patriarchy in tribal government structures, i.e., how it's bad and caused by colonization (but I'm making that inference, it's not really in the book)

Things I did not like:
- very underdeveloped world-building; like, great ideas as I said, not developed at all or integrated into the "plot." The central premise of the world (Indigenous folks have an antibody non-Indigenous folks want for this plague) is literally irrelevant to 90% percent of what happens in the book.
- I use the term "plot" lightly here because, frankly, this book doesn't really have one?? I spent like the entire book--all 456 pages of it--waiting for something to happen. That's not quite true, actually, things happen like two-thirds of the way in, and they make no sense. Like, there is no reason or motivation behind anything and there are just kind of hints towards things that are kind of fishy that are never resolved. There's actually a point late in the novel in which Cass thinks "nothing that has happened makes any sense" and I was like, yes! exactly. I realized by the end of the book that it is clearly the first book in what is going to be a series (oh no), but that's no excuse for having a very long book with no plot arc. It was like reading an entire novel of exposition and introspection, with a few random, inexplicable events thrown in.
- Characterization was as terrible as the plotting. Cass, the main character, has some cool skills with healing and being able to see people's totems/spirits, but that's the only interesting thing about her. She is totally bland and devoid of personality, as is mostly everyone else (her dad, her boyfriend), or else they have one personality trait that dominates (her brother). When the characters don't feel like real people, you don't care about what happens to them.
- Ugh, insta-love is a trope I'm not that into, especially between two boring characters with no discernible personalities.
- All of this boils down to terrible editing, which makes no sense since this is published by Simon & Schuster Teen and it's not like they don't have the money. Seriously, teens, especially Indigenous ones, deserve better.
Profile Image for Tati.
937 reviews85 followers
September 23, 2014
This was a really weird book. I think that the author tried to do something different, but it was so confusing.

In a world where aboriginal people are immune to a disease that kills everyone else, their blood has become quite valuable, and periodic searches are made in order to try and capture those immune. When Cassandra's family is threatened by one of those searches, they decide to flee to the Island, a place protected by an energy barrier and a group of warriors. Once there, Cassandra sees herself as the apprentice of the medicine woman and going deeper and deeper into the spirit world.

My thoughts:

* I did not like Cassandra. I could not relate to her, and thought she was quite weak for an heroine.
* The dystopian element simply faded into the background. I was expecting Cassandra to lose someone to the searches, and to try and save them by leaving the safety of the island, but no. Instead, the story turned into a spiritual quest, that did not make much sense to me. I found myself going back to see if I had missed anything important at several moments (and no, I hadn't, just some weird jumps in the story).
* The official synopsis mentions a weaving of Greek mythology, Arthurian legend and aboriginal traditions. That was a big failure. Other than a crazy woman talking about how her son was going to save the land and the legend of Cassandra's name, I couldn't find any traces of those two universes.However, the aboriginal mythology played a more significant part, what with the totem and the spirit world and the healing.
* When I thought the Plague had been completely forgotten by the author, it makes a brief appearance and that was it, no explanations given about the implications of that

I did not like this book and do not recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for ILoveBooks.
977 reviews10 followers
April 9, 2012
How far would you go to escape the dreaded Plague? Would you take the blood of an innocent? In this dystopic world, the only survivors or hopeful survivors are the ones who are immune or who have the ability to access that immunity. Aboriginal blood is found to offer hope against the Plague and is highly valued. Cassandra, the main character, might feel that she is safe against the Plague, but she has to worry about the government and people hunting her down to harvest her precious blood...not necessarily a common worry for a teenager. The more Cassandra's family is threatened the more they desperately search for a way to protect themselves. When they come across the Island, they think they may have hope, but is the Island as safe as it seems?

Cassandra isn't the easiest character to identify with or connect to, but her voice in the story is not typical or boring. She is brave, smart, and protective of her family. She does not back down and is amazingly resourceful, a character to look up to. The other characters are interesting to get to know, they all have a reason for being in the story, the author limited the extraneous characters. Cassandra is by far the most focused upon character. Her connection to the spirit world and her understanding of the world around her will likely be interesting to the reader.

The plot is not the most unusual, but the twist concerning aboriginal blood is an interesting take on a dystopian world. The author plays out the fear and tension created by a blood-hungry world very well, the reader will likely feel chills up his/her spine when reading certain excerpts. Overall, this book is recommended to young adult/teen readers.
Profile Image for Mia Searles (The Muses Circle).
315 reviews49 followers
June 12, 2013
**GIVEAWAY** ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A HARDCOVER COPY OF SHADOWS CAST BY STARS by: Catherine Knutsson! Go to my review posted on my blog HERE to enter. Giveaway ends June 20, 2013. Open to US residents ONLY!

My Review: Shadows Cast By Stars is one of the most uniquely original novels I've had the pleasure of reading within the past year. I regret that it has taken me this long to review it, but things happen for a reason and I'm always happy to bring attention to a novel whether it has just been released or published 10 years ago. Shadows is a very hard book to categorize and is sort of a genre bender. It is dystopian yet the author manages to weave in Greek mythology, Arthurian legend, and culture of the First Peoples. I think this is one of the reasons why it has been having trouble finding the right audience. Despite this, Shadows is one of the most fascinating dystopian books out there, with beautiful, lyrical writing, and characters that you come to care about.

Let's talk about characters for a moment. I thought Cassandra was a great heroine and I found myself quite sympathetic to her plight. She sort of reminds me of myself at times, an old soul that carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. She loves her father and her brother but I got the sense that she is the glue to this family dynamic. I couldn't help but fall a little in love with her brother Paul, and I think that is a huge feat and proves how amazing of an author Catherine Knutsson is. I usually get bored with brother/sister tales because one character always seems to be more interesting then the other. But Paul is such a well written character, a tortured soul that seems to be always hanging over a precipice, one step in the light, one step in the dark.

Once Cassandra, Paul, and their father are forced to leave and move to the Island, other interesting characters are introduced. I loved Madda, the village healer who takes Cass under her wing and teaches her about healing and controlling her powers. We also get to meet the village leader's son, Bran, who becomes Cassandra's love interest. Some reviewers thought Cass and Bran's relationship was rushed. I don't believe so. Was there an immediate attraction between the two? Yes, but they didn't fall into each others arms right away. It was more like a slow burn. But then again, when it does happen and they allow their feelings to take over, it's a beautiful thing since they live in a world where at any moment they could be discovered by those from the Corridor.

What makes this novel truly unique and thought provoking is the many themes and lessons to be learned. Catherine Knutsson does this by giving us characters that can walk in the spirit world, a world where technology has poisoned us and the Old Ways are embraced by few but perhaps is the key to saving the world from self destruction. Cassandra and her brother Paul are called "Others", those who are immune to Plague because they carry antibodies to fight it due to their aboriginal blood. The term "Others" is interesting because it reminds me of a Multicultural class I took back in college. "Others" was a term used by whites when referring to Asian people. I remember thinking how horrible it must have been to be called an "Other", as if these people were not human beings but something entirely different, in a far less superior category. That's how Cass and her people are treated, so discrimination and prejudice are huge themes that run throughout the novel.

Spirituality is also prevalent in Shadows Cast By Stars. While Cassandra can see spirit and see a person's Shade (like a person's totem or animal spirit), Paul has terrifying visions that come true and is often visited by the dead. Cass knows this takes a huge toll on Paul who starts to become more and more withdrawn. I also love how everything has a spirit which reminds me of Native American culture. While at school, Cass finds and sneaks out "contraband", a term used in the Corridor for old, forgotten items such as pencils, clips, elastic bands, rusty old keys, ribbons, etc. She then takes these items home and waits until they tell her what they want to be used for; sometimes she weaves them into dreamcatchers, other times it may be a basket. These items come to life in her hands and shows us how even the smallest object, such as a rock, has a spirit inside it.

Another important and interesting theme throughout the novel is that of Technology vs. The Old Ways. Novels that explore the advancement of technology and give us different views on what the world may look like in the future always disturb and intrigue me. It's scary because I see some of the negative effects already. We live in a world where teenagers don't even know how to tell time by looking at a clock because they are so used to looking at their cell phones. We live in a technological society where 10 years ago I could remember phone numbers without even checking my personal phone book but now if I lost my cell phone, I wouldn't even be able to call my boyfriend because I don't know his number by heart! In Shadows Cast By Stars, we are 200 years in the future where technology has basically turned against us. Everything is poison, the air we breath, the people infected with prejudice, etc. But maybe there is another way to live. Maybe it's not too late. Cassandra's father has taught his children how to live without electricity, how to live off the land. With Cass' healing nature and her father's instructions, they were able to salvage part of the soil in order to grow vegetables. Her father believes that by embracing and remembering the Old Ways, it keeps you honest and helps to remember who you are.

Once Cassandra and her family reach the Island, the Old Ways become more clear, the spirit world calls to her more often, and creatures you only hear about in nighttime stories or in legends come to life. It's rare for a novel to spook me or give me goosebumps, but this is Catherine Knutsson we are talking about! I know I mentioned how beautifully written the novel is, but some of her descriptions are so very vivid, especially when she introduces us to some of the ancient creatures that Cass has to contend with, such as the sisiutal and the dzoonokwas. I'm not even going to attempt to explain them, but let me just say the dzoonokwa that stalked Cassandra in the woods was truly frightening. But even these fierce creatures I came to respect because even they know how threatened their own world and existence has become due to the sickness that technology has spread.

There were a few issues I had with the book that held me back from giving this novel a perfect 5 star rating and I am afraid they may mirror what others have complained about already. I would have to agree that we need to know more about the Corridor. Afterall, this is a dystopian novel. Everything we learn about the Corridor is at the very beginning of story, perhaps the first 2 or 3 chapters at most. We know that the Corridor is a city, polluted, contaminated, and people are dying from some sort of Plague. We know that government officials of the Corridor want "Others" tagged so that they can be used for their blood, almost like sacrifices. While this demented city and government sound scary, we never get any examples, flashbacks, or first person accounts as to how dangerous this society is. I'm also not so sure I am sold on the concept that people of the Corrider have to kill "Others" for their blood. If they keep killing those who are immune to the Plague, what happens when they become extinct? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to maybe breed "Others" so that they can keep up with the demand for their blood? Sounds horrible, I know, but the breeding concept sounds more believable then killing them all. I also had a problem with how the government keeps tabs on those who have aboriginal blood. In the beginning of the story, everyone knows that Cass and Paul are "Others". Yet somehow the government doesn't know that their father is as well. How can they know Cass and Paul are immune to Plague but not their father? It really makes no sense and should have been thought through more.

Shadows Cast By Stars is an ambitious, deeply moving story. I still sometimes have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that this is Catherine Knutsson's debut novel. Her writing and storytelling are just that good. If you like stories that are not only entertaining but also make you think, then look no further. Shadows is the type of novel that I can see being used in high school classrooms and in colleges because it can prompt so many interesting discussions about discrimination and prejudice, spiritualism, and the pros and cons of technological advancement and what our world might look like in another 200 years. The book may test you morally and ethically in regards to the government killing one group of people to sustain the lives of others. Who has the right to make such a judgement? What makes one group of people more important than the other? If you are tired of searching for something unique in the overly saturated dystopian genre, give Shadows Cast By Stars a try. It's totally worth it.

Mia @ The Muses Circle
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
June 10, 2012
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: This novel crosses boundaries of science fiction and fantasy to weave together a world of racism, plagues and myths that test the heroine in ways she never imagined.

Opening Sentence: We live the Old Way.

The Review:

The UA’s greatest concern is the Plague. With everyone crammed into Population Corridors and quarantine sections numbered off, they harvest the Others for their blood. The Island is the last resort of Cassandra’s father, who’s clung hard to their house, his wife’s grave, and the life they have in the Corridor. But as blood becomes more scarce the government begins hunting half-bloods. They have no choice but to run or die. The Others are more than the government gives them credit for. Paul, her younger brother by four minutes, prophesizes the future — though they can rarely discern the answer in time to change it, while Cassandra can see Others’ shades. They reveal to her the state of someone’s soul. Her father’s, for example, hasn’t been seen since her mother died.

The Mercredi’s lived the Old Way, without the luxuries of the Corridor. Living on the Island isn’t such a big change for them. Protected by the boundary, the island is closer to the spirit world than the Corridors. Cass’s power is stronger here, different. She can feel the Island itself. Old land has a lot of secrets; ones that Cass might be finding out sooner than she expected. The mythology of the aboriginals and Arthurian legends begin to mix their way into her life as she finds friends in the community. And we all know the original myths aren’t quite as nice as the Disney versions.

Things on the Island aren’t as easy as they’d hoped. For one thing, not everyone is happy to have Corridor people living among them. As the twins try to find their place in the community, they fall further apart. Cassandra towards the Island’s healer, Paul to the Band. Both of these cliques have their own dangers. Cass from the spirit world she uses to help heal, Paul from the government that’s hunting the Band. As the holes in the boundary begin to grow bigger, their jobs become harder. Not only because the boundary is tied directly to the spirit world, and thus their powers, but because the government is going after the Band more aggressively — putting Paul and Cass directly in their path.

What blew me away with this novel was Knutsson’s writing. Her prose is poetic, grounding the narrative voice in emotions and scenery without saying it outright. The interpretations of the mythology and legends made for a tense and original story line that I really, really hope turns into a series. As her characters grow, both as a community and as individuals, they make hard choices that will have readers questioning what they would do in such pressing situations. Nothing on the Island is quite what it seems — spirits are real and people are false. Just when you think you’ve got the plot pegged or a character, Knutsson surprises you with a twist and changes your expectations. For someone who reads a lot of young adult and can usually guess the rest of a story, it’s a refreshing change. This story crosses the boundaries of fantasy and science fiction, creating a dystopian with an alluring back story that keeps tension high and the pages turning.

Notable Scene:

Finally Madda clears her throat again. “Grace, I’ve got a matter I need to discuss with you. Band business. Cassandra, would you wait for me outside?”

I force myself to take slow, even steps as I cross the room and slip into the hall, but the library door doesn’t close all the way, I creep back to listen.

“How do you know she’s not the one?” Madda asks.

“She’s a half-breed. She said it herself.” Grace coughs. “Bran can do better. He will do better.”

“She might be a half-breed, but she’s also touched by spirit. I would have thought that would be enough for you.”

“I’m looking for pure blood. That’s what Bran needs to step into his inheritance–a woman whose lineage I can be sure of. Spirit has nothing to do with it. I am rebuilding what should never have been lost. I’d think you’d understand, considering your trae in myth and legend. The old myths are being reborn. You know that as well as I do.”

FTC Advisory: Atheneum/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Shadows Cast By Stars. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.
Profile Image for Rich in Color.
488 reviews84 followers
May 10, 2013
I wish I liked this book more.

As a moving-to-a-new-town book, Shadows Cast by Stars is serviceable. Cass’s struggles to fit in with the people on the Island—including wanted and unwanted attention from boys—make for some interesting character dynamics and conflict. I particularly enjoyed Cass’s scenes with Madda and her (sort-of) friendship with Helen. The women are the most memorable characters in the novel, though the boys don’t give them much competition in that regard (more on this in a bit).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t invested in Cass’s relationship with Bran. They fall for each other far too quickly for my taste, and their relationship crosses off most of the plot devices for romances (down to an ex-girlfriend stealing a kiss in such a way that the heroine thinks the boyfriend is cheating on her). It doesn’t help that Bran spends large chunks of the story away from Cass, so they end up hitting their relationship milestones really quickly compared to how many hours they actually spend together on-screen.

I have three major complaints with the book, and the first is a matter of expectations. Based on the summary, I was expecting there to be a lot more time invested in exploring this particular disease-ridden world. I wanted to see the cultural, social, and legal ramifications of a world where the government is totally okay with draining people of all their blood in order to stop the spread of Plague. The premise promised me all sorts of interesting possibilities, from a black market for blood to exploitation to national testing and IDs.

I got none of that. The most I got was a chip in all the Corridor citizens’ wrists which let them…connect to the internet? The details are supremely fuzzy and leave more questions than answers: Why doesn’t the government keep better tabs on the people who are the only cure for the Plague? How could our heroes possibly have had time to run when a new plague outbreak occurs? Why isn’t there some kind of set-up where everyone immune to the Plague donates plasma/blood/etc. every [X] days, gets paid handsomely for it, and then the government distributes those vaccines/cures to the people who can afford to get them? Do the antibodies in Others’ blood grant immunity like a vaccine or is it more of a medicine given once the illness has been contracted? Does this government really think it’s an awesome long-term solution to execute the only people immune to the Plague? What is the government going to do when they’ve “overhunted” to extinction?

My second complaint is that many of the characters in the book feel distressingly shallow. Paul spends the entirety of the book as an enigma, and once they get to the Island, Cass spends more time with Bran than him. Neither Cass nor Paul seem to care much about getting ripped out of their lives—the closest we get to them missing anything is when Cass asks her dad if the Island has a school system. (As far as I remember, this never gets answered.) Neither Cass nor Paul apparently had any friends or even extended family in their previous lives. There was one attempt to humanize Avalon, which fell flat for me, Cedar was creepy and probably triggery, and Grace was creepy with a side order of broken. Much of the time these characters (except for Madda and Ms. Adelaide) simply didn’t seem to live in the world they inhabited.

My third complaint is that the culture of the Island felt really off to me. I’ll be the first to admit that my experience with literature starring or written by native people is pretty limited, but even I was able to pick up on many of the problematic bits that Debbie Reese identified. The mixture of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend didn’t mesh well with the story and were distracting (minor) players in the narrative. Frankly, I would have much preferred that they weren’t included at all.

Recommendation: Just skip it, unfortunately. While there are a lot of interesting ideas in the story, they got all tangled up around each other.
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,119 reviews1,333 followers
July 15, 2012

Read more of my reviews at Nick's Book Blog

What attracted me first to Shadows Cast by Stars was the beautiful cover. Dystopian novels are really rocketing in the YA world these days, but good solid dystopian books are very hard to find. In Shadows Cast By Stars, I was looking for a book that would completely surprise me. Fortunately, it did, up to an extent.

In the dystopian society crafted by Catherine Knutsson, society is divided into two different sectors: The Corridor and The Island. The citizens of The Island are aboriginals, whose blood contains antibodies against The Plague. For this reason, the government seeks to harvest blood from them. The main character, Cass, is of aboriginal descent living in The Corridor. Soon, her family, consisting of her father and brother, Paul, are forced to take flight to The Island which is completely shrouded in mystery. There, Cass begins to unravel secrets about herself and these very secrets threaten her loved ones.

Cass wasn’t exactly a character who was easy to like at first sight, but instead as she grew throughout the story, I began to grow fond of her. Having lost her mother, she has always been the “New Mom” in the family, always caring for her family and trying to protect them from all harm. I really loved how defensive she was about her twin brother, Paul. One scene that really struck me in a good way was when she said she would do almost anything to transfer Paul’s grief to her. This depicted how deep her love for her brother was. She really tried her best to hold her whole family together in a tight knot, although it seemed to be a difficult task. As the story unfolded, Cass began to mature, shedding all the insecurities and doubts fringing her and becoming a strong girl comfortable in her own skin. Beautifully molded, the secondary characters were ones who had depth, but not quite to my satisfaction. I really wanted to get to know Paul a little better because he was so mysterious and secretive. At the end of the book, I was left with millions of questions regarding his character, which I hope will be answered in the next installment of the series.

The world-building in Shadows Cast by Stars was enthralling, rich and highly complex. While reading, it was stark clear that the author had bothered to do some research to write about a highly detailed world. The myths, the lifestyles of the aboriginals, the healing, the spirit world and the totems were absolutely fascinating. Because it had fresh ideas, I thought the book was highly imaginative. One problem I had with the book was the pace of the story. I, personally, thought that the plot moved at a tortoise speed, which resulted in my attention swaying on several occasions. Also, there was a bit of an instant-love in the book in that the characters, Cass and Bran, jumped into a relationship a little too fast to my liking. Regardless, I was glad that the romance never inundated the plot. In fact, it was subtle and it was present in an appropriate dose. Catherine Knutsson caught me by surprise often by throwing in unexpected twists and turns.

Shadows Cast by Stars was a nice medley of dystopian and paranormal. Even with some of the complaints I had, I found myself really enjoying the book. I'm definitely going to be on the look-out for the next installment of this series.
Profile Image for Levin Low.
1 review17 followers
March 28, 2015
Possibly quite the worst book I have ever read.

Let's look at why it is so.

Pros: The setting is wonderful. A beautiful island steeped in various cultures and myths.

Cons: Everything else. The main character, Cassandra feels fake. So little is devoted to her feelings. Where are her emotions? Like, oh, I just got electrocuted. I will carry on! And: dear me. My hearing has been sacrificed to the angry spirits. I cannot hear anything. Or express anything either. Her ability to see totems is also fairly useless, and contributes nothing to the main plot. I would give almost anything to see her act like a normal human being.
The other characters fall flat. Painfully flat. They fall so hard I can almost hear the sound of their nose smashing into their brain. That might have been what happened to them, as they are strictly two-dimensional.
Cassandra's twin Paul is a boring enigma. No clue as to why he behaves in that manner. I believe he may have a split-personality disorder, or some other mental illness.
Madda, the medicine woman? Her role in this story is to play the mentor, the mother figure to Cassandra. Instead, she teaches her the very basics of Medicine-alogy and warns her of her rival for Bran's affections. Plus, she does not, in any way, seem to display any maternal feelings towards Cassandra. Gracie Eagleson was more mother to Cassandra than her.
Avalon. Avalon, Avalon, Avalon. Now she, at least has potential. Or at least she had it. Towards the end of the book it's almost nonexistent, like... Anakin Skywalker's immolated torso encased in clunky, limiting Darth Vader armor. Burnt, depending on life support, and with no limbs. Also, again with no emotions.
Bran Eagleson. How do I even begin to explain Bran Eagleson? Bran Eagleson is moody. Bran Eagleson is a terrible liar. Bran Eagleson is a woefully lacklustre guy who can't make up his mind. Come back, Paul. All is forgiven.
The adventure is...so unadventurous I almost wish the sisiutl would return and maul Cassandra. Row row, in a canoe, lalala. Cedar is touching my thigh, I have lost my hearing. Please.
As for the romance between Cassandra and Bran, what can I say? This is more like the romance in Fifty Shades of Grey. The sex is ragin', but the dialogue tries to be and fails epically.

I will not be reading, or even cracking this book open again. Only to extract those befuddling moments and poke fun at them.
Profile Image for Rose Vanden Eynden.
Author 6 books62 followers
June 27, 2012
This beautifully-written novel is hard to describe. The story moves at a slow, deliberate pace, much like the thoughtful and sacred world in which we find our protagonist, Cassandra, a young woman who can see into the spirit realms. Cass is Metis, of Native ancestry, which gains her access to a world that penetrates the dystopian society in which she lives. Her Native blood also keeps her immune from a Plague that has ravished society, and the majority of the people who are not immune soon drive Cass and her family to run to the Island, a Native refuge guarded by the Band and separated by a mysterious energy field that seems to be a doorway into a place where people and Spirit co-exist--but not altogether harmoniously. It is here that Cass learns more about herself and her gifts and confronts the Powers that try to use her for their own means.

I really enjoyed the character of Cass. She was unsure and strong, bold and meek, the perfect mixture of a young woman teetering on the edge of adulthood. She was also confused a great deal of the time about her insights into the spiritual world, and I found, as a spiritual student, that I could definitely relate to her hesitations and her lack of confidence. When she began her studies with the medicine woman Madda, I wanted to cheer--but of course, this help was challenged as well, and Cass had to find her own way, both in the physical world and in the realms of Spirit. At time, this was challenging and frustrating as a reader. There were places in the story where I was unsure of what was happening and had to re-read passages to try to figure out plot points. In a lesser book or one that was poorly written, I wouldn't have bothered to keep going. Catherine Knutsson's engaging and lyrical writing style, however, kept me intrigued, and I had to finish to know what happened to Cass.

I look forward to more work by this author. I truly admire her storytelling style.
Profile Image for Brianna Kilcrease.
Author 5 books5 followers
August 13, 2012
First Line: We live the Old Way.

This is by far, one of the best books I have ever read. It probably sits up in the top twenties. This morning at 11 in the morning I was eighty pages into Shadows Cast by Stars, and got so into it that I finished it at 4 in the evening this same day! For five hours I sat in the same room, on the same chair reading this book! And the crazy part? I don't think there was any better way I could have spent that time.

I chose Shadows Cast by Stars to read first out of the twenty other library books I have because it's about Indians. And to tell you the truth it did sorta remind me of Pocahontas throughout the novel. Being about a native american girl who can see spirits and becomes a medicine woman. She also is headstrong and does what she thinks is right. And just fyi, Pocahontas is my favorite disney movie ever!

Catherine Knutsson has a livid, dreamy voice that wraps you up as you read her book. The way she describes things, and the way she talks in Cass's point of view is beautiful. I myself have alot of Cherokee indian blood in me, so I sort of felt connected to this book in some way. Now, about the characters. Her brother was a great guy in the beginning, but by the end I didn't really like him. He had become mean and indifferent and I wish he could have always been the careless Paul he had always been.

Bran on the other hand, the chief's son and the boy that Cass likes, stays true the entire novel. He's my favorite boy in the book. He's nice, caring, and strong. I believe he'd make a good chief some day. And then there was his ex-girlfriend Avalon whom I hated the entire book. She's one of those girls that you just want to murder, and if I was there in the book I probably would have spilled some blood.

Other than that, I loved all the characters, and cried at some parts because this book pulls you from all sides. Sad, beautiful, and original.
Profile Image for Chalyss.
36 reviews23 followers
June 5, 2016
I had been eyeing this book for quite some but the price was so high that I just didn't buy it. I finally gave in and am sorry to say it wasn't what I wanted or thought it was going to be.

The idea was so intriguing, a girl who connects to the spirits and the spirits trying to connect to everyone through her, it sounded great but the actual story line did not truly come in until about 75% of the way through the book. The actual plot didn't even fully come to fruition it was half of what the blurb described it as. The rest was fluff to build the story but way too much fluff for no reason. Ideas were put in my head that other smaller plot lines were going to run along the main one to make the story better but nothing actually came of those ideas . Everything that happened just ended very anticlimactically. There was such a build for nothing at all.

The ending itself was, forgive me and my rudeness I mean no offense to the author but, stupid. I understand books that leave you like that but that started to open a second book but closed but left you guessing but but but...It was an ending almost to a different story than what had been built up. This book was 466 pages but could have definitely been done in 278-360. There was no need for all that was there.

It might have just been me but I was done with this book way before I was 50% through but because of the price there was no way I was going to not finish it. That was about the only thing that made me push through.
Profile Image for Crumbcat.
17 reviews
June 9, 2017
SCbS could be described as sci fi or fantasy, but it really reads more like a traditional maturation novel. Cassandra spends most of this first book worrying about her friends and family, realizing and rebelling against power dynamics within her tribe, and growing into her own as a powerful and skilled healer. While the unique cultural elements make Shadows Cast by Stars an interesting and engaging read, there were some major problems, especially as the book progressed.

The balance between the interesting and mundane felt off the entire book- Cassandra spends just too much time with introspection and teen angst. I lost count of how many scenes involved walking somewhere, and then turning around and walking back.

Knutsson wrote about native culture in a way that came off as an outsider perspective, which is not what I was expecting going into this book. There are flags starting at the beginning- totems, dreamcatchers, the term “half-blood” used casually. As the book progressed, stereotypes of the native community were very roughly handled- there’s drinking and sexual assault and sexism- and Knutsson wasn’t giving me anything nuanced with any of these issues.

The most interesting and unique aspects of this story were rushed and muddled. Cassandra can walk in the spirit world, where she heals and binds spirits, battles evil, and converses with both antagonistic and helpful guides. But most of these interactions felt unteathered, leaving me with no real visual understanding of the scene, interactions, or significance. I routinely felt ambivalent – Cassandra’s reactions to her various trials left me shrugging.

Overall, Shadows Cast by Stars was entertaining, but just too sloppy to entice me towards the remaining books in the series. It has a wonderful blurb and premise, and native culture is woefully underrepresented in mainstream YA science fiction and fantasy, but the delivery just isn’t there.
Profile Image for XXK.
520 reviews14 followers
January 24, 2014
This was quite a reasonable in my opinion, just not my kind of story. Too much bark, not enough bite one might say. It lacked a... I don't know... Spark, I guess. It didn't have a lot of emotion written inside it, but then again, maybe the author designed it that way, thus bringing everything back to my first statement.
The cover I bought was a lot more prettier and simpler than the other one. I don't know, people say "don't judge a book by it's cover," but I tend to think the ones with simplistic characteristics are the best.
The protagonist was quite good, but again, not my type. Not enough feeling within her, no cockney, not a lot of anger and barely any fear. Though I'm glad she was a healer, I believe this is actually the first time the main character is a proper one with no intention of fighting or killing anyone. Goody.
Also not particularly happy with Aboriginal references. No! I'm not racist, I'm fine with Aborigines as much as the next person (current age, of course) I just don't usually love reading about them. Or any other cultures for that matter.
And, may I just say, I am extremely sick of every single novel containing a sibling of some sort having to kill off them, (Excluding the Divergent series of course, but then again.....)
So yes. 2.5 stars I guess. The book was written beautifully, but not my type.
Side note: Is this stand alone? I hope so. But the crow at the end stated otherwise so.... Slightly confuzzled.
Profile Image for jesse.
968 reviews100 followers
July 2, 2012

random notes
it's got bits and pieces of different books thrown in like ...

* a soul/totem which manifests itself in an animal form(the golden compass),
* on a mission to find the lost (twin) brother (blood red road) and
* a dark tinge not unlike that of the dark angel trilogy
* various myths,
* aborigines culture and
* the magical feel (including the relationship between humans between animals and nature) of miyazaki films woven into it (particularly princess mononoke, imo)
* and all of that in a post-apocalyptic setting, talk about random. it definitely sets itself apart from other ya-books, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. still, the gorgeous cover begs you to pick up the book and take a peek
Profile Image for River Lange.
1 review
December 11, 2012
The writing was exquisite!!!

I read in some of the reviews, the readers thought the plot was slow. I have to disagree. However, somewhere around page 250, things went horribly wrong. And maybe I was overly disappointed because I expected the wonderful story to keep me on the journey, instead of a wild chase through the forest, like a dog chasing his tail in circles.

From here on, the book started shapeshifting and couldn't decide if it was fighting a war against mankind/the plague/tribal warfare/or the spirit world. And there, right there, the whole story sort of dumped me on my head. I kept rereading pages, searching for something I might have missed to make sense of it. Some of the characters were not as well developed as the twins, Cass and Paul, and seemed almost superfluous to the point, I didn't care about them. Even toward the end I felt more attached to Paul than Cass. And he was the one missing?!! Bran did not seem real at all, an illusion.

I struggled through and read it to the end--page 456, scratching my head. How could such a beautiful story spiral so out of control? What I would like to know, was it just me? Did no one else get lost?
October 1, 2013
Really impressed by the strong ending. There's so much going on in this book I was worried it would feel like only half of each story is getting told, or that it wouldn't feel like it was all part of the same thing, but it interwove itself beautifully. The book ends with far more to happen, but it doesn't leave you teetering on that cliff. I'm satisfied with how it ended, and that's rare enough. I am certainly awaiting the subsequent book though.

I can't sum this book up. Any description I were to give wouldn't do it justice. It's a story of a girl who sees spirits, and yet it's not what you imagine when you read that. It's more. More interesting, captivating, stunning. Note, I really did like this book. It's not fast paced, but it's never boring. The beginning jumps straight to the centre of everything. Sure there's loose threads but in what interesting book isn't there at least a few. The point is that in a good book, you don't have the chance to notice, or the whim to complain. This is a good book.
Profile Image for LiN.
5 reviews7 followers
November 16, 2012
This book was written with such thought that in moments I felt the true emotions of what these characters were feeling. It was something that kept me reading until there was no more to read. Through struggles, love, hate and pain...that is what our heroine had to face but in the end, she sucessed through the sorrows and sacrifice that helped her become a person she thought she might never come to be. A story of person rising from the shadows to become something more or something their destined is a couragous tale that makes anyone believe that they can also achieve great things with the mind sets of "I will" and "I believe I can". These days with all the books I read, it rare for a one to hold me interest for a long time. Or just maybe this book is bewitched and has me under it's spell....
Profile Image for Jaime.
542 reviews149 followers
August 16, 2012
This review will be short and sweet. The reason? There is nothing I can say about Shadows Cast by Stars to explain just how amazing it really is. And believe me when I say, it is truly an amazing tale. I have never read anything like this before. When I first started it, I wasn't sure if I could stick with it, but it didn't take long for me to get pulled into this story. And once I was in, I couldn't get away. It is beautiful. Hauntingly beautiful.
Usually I am clamoring for stand-alone's, but I hope there will be a sequel. The ending was open ended enough that I can definitely see another story there. Keeping my fingers crossed!
I highly recommend this book to everyone who loves to read. I don't think you will be disappointed.
Profile Image for Hannah.
548 reviews16 followers
May 22, 2016
This was billed to me as a "Native American retelling of King Arthur," and it wasn't. It was the standard YA dystopia set on a reservation...

Except it wasn't standard at all.

Instead of overthrowing the evil government with the power of a love triangle, MC trains to be a medicine woman/nurse and falls deeper into the spirit world. There was also an actual description of the setting rather than vague references to how the world is now run like a suburban high school.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and wish the sequel had been published.
Profile Image for Cass -  Words on Paper.
820 reviews217 followers
Shelved as 'top-wishlist'
November 15, 2011
Ooh! Now there are two 2012 debuts with protagonists who share the same name as me. ;P I couldn't tell this was dystopian, but I dig the fact that this mentions Aboriginal heritage, seeing as I live in Australia.
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